The Road to The Show™: Dodgers’ Stone
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at fifth-ranked Dodgers prospect Gavin Stone. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. This spring, Gavin Stone treated the Cactus League to
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at fifth-ranked Dodgers prospect Gavin Stone. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.
This spring, Gavin Stone treated the Cactus League to an encore of the same performance he gave three levels of the Minors in 2022.
MLB Pipeline’s No. 56 overall prospect pitched just 6 ⅔ innings over four appearances for the Dodgers. But he went unscored upon in each of those dominant outings as he racked up 18 punchouts -- eight of which came in his final outing -- before being optioned back to Triple-A Oklahoma City last week.
“Certainly the skill set, we already knew about, but it’s still good to see in bullpen sessions every day,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told MLB.com earlier this month. “But I just think learning more about the person, the heartbeat, how he performs on this stage. That’s really telling. I couldn’t be more impressed with Gavin.”
The Dodgers’ fifth-ranked prospect had one of the best seasons among all Minor League pitchers in 2022 as he advanced from High-A Great Lakes to Double-A Tulsa to Oklahoma City.
Stone’s 1.48 ERA was the best in the Minors as he struck out 168 batters over 121 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old seemed to get better as the season progressed and finished with his best numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
“Gavin has one of the best changeups you'll ever see, and he’s just a pitch maker,” Dodgers director of player development William Rhymes told MiLB.com in October. “There's a lot of optimism that it will play at the next level. He's an incredible competitor, and he has really good stuff. He knows how to get outs and go deep into games.”
That 70-grade tumbling changeup is Stone’s highest-rated pitch, according to MLB Pipeline. At the end of last season, Rhymes took note of a tweak Stone made to his slider to better fit his arsenal as he learned how his pitches played off his mid-90s fastball.
Stone certainly was not the same type of pitcher when he started his college career at Central Arkansas in 2018. During his first two seasons with the Bears, he mostly worked out of the bullpen and enjoyed a breakout as the team’s closer during his sophomore season, compiling a 1.52 ERA with 58 strikeouts over 47 ⅓ innings.
The 6-foot-1 right-hander joined the Central Arkansas rotation for his junior year and ended his truncated college career on a high note. In the last of his four starts before the pandemic wiped out the season, Stone threw a 13-strikeout no-hitter against Southeastern Louisiana.
He did not rank among MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 200 Draft prospects in 2020 and was certainly not a lock to be selected in the five-round Draft. But the Dodgers called his name with the penultimate pick, No. 159 overall. Later that week, Stone signed with Los Angeles for a reported $97,500 bonus, which was less than a third of slot value.
After the pandemic, Stone made his professional debut with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He lasted 18 outings, all but one of which were starts, before earning his first promotion to Great Lakes in August. Over 70 total innings with the Quakes, Stone fanned 101 batters and compiled a 3.73 ERA. He was named California League Pitcher of the Week twice in August before his first promotion to the Midwest League. He struck out 37 over 21 innings in his first run with the Loons as he continued to develop a feel for his changeup.
Fifth-ranked @Dodgers prospect Gavin Stone was a K machine in his three innings of work: pic.twitter.com/ughdO64CSt— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 19, 2023
Everything took a step forward when he returned to Great Lakes at the start of 2022. Stone needed just six starts and compiled a 1.44 ERA before getting the bump to Tulsa in May. His brilliance continued in the Texas League, where he allowed just 13 earned runs while racking up 107 strikeouts in 73 ⅓ total innings (1.60 ERA).
Stone saved his best run for last with six starts in Oklahoma City that left some to ponder whether he could actually be suited for the Dodgers’ postseason roster. In 23 ⅓ total innings, he allowed just three earned runs (1.16 ERA) and whiffed 33 while holding opposing batters to a .169 average.
Stone finished with 12.43 strikeouts per nine innings, the eighth-most among all qualified pitchers in the Minors. But in addition to his punchout prowess, he pitched to a lot of soft and ground-ball contact (47.1 percent).
The Dodgers have already made the decision to break camp with Stone in the Minors, turning to sixth-ranked prospect Ryan Pepiot to fill the rotation spot left by Tony Gonsolin’s injury. The club has a very deep pool of starting pitching prospects and can also call upon second-ranked Bobby Miller in a pinch. Stone is very much a part of that mix. He enters the 2023 season with some momentum and is developing a track record that could land him Los Angeles before too long.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.